Irish Tribute: Our Shared Heritage
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 New York is the world's finest city, but for us it has been even more

By Seán Mac Cárthaigh

For at least 200 years, Irish people have felt just a little proprietary about New York. Sure, it is the world’s greatest city, the very template for 'city', the city that welcomed the world. But for us it has been even more.

New York was our release valve. When a million people starved in the famine, another million managed to get out of Ireland, and most of them headed for New York. In the decades since, right through to the 1990s, hundreds of thousands more of us arrived in the city, suitcase in hand, looking for a place to stay and a job. Now, everyone has relatives in New York.

When London treated us like second-class citizens, New York held out a hand in welcome. If you were willing to work hard there, you really could get ahead, raise a family, live the dream. And we took to it with unbridled enthusiasm, building whole communities, businesses and organisations.

The stories that came back! We heard how the Irish made buildings that towered 80 floors into the air, rose up the ranks of the NYPD and the Fire Department, came to run politics in the town, had bustling bars the length and breadth of Manhattan. New York made us proud to be ourselves.

Our emigrants’ children and grandchildren climbed high up the business ladder. Nowadays the list of Fortune 500 company directors looks like the passenger list from an Famine ship.

And New York has just been so much fun for the Irish. Where else could you meet people from all over the world as equals, hear their languages and their stories, and then bring them to see a hurling match at Gaelic Park?

So when hi-jacked planes smash into two great symbols of New York and kill thousands of people, the Irish everywhere take it very badly, very personally.

Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who died, and we cry bitter tears of loss. For they were New Yorkers, and that means every last one of them was one of our own.

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